Recently there have been a number of people taking a gratitude challenge or a thankfulness challenge on Facebook. They go for several days listing things that they are grateful for. It might seem like a fad, much like the ice bucket challenge, but there is more to it than that. Gratitude has some real quantifiable and healthy side effects.
“Thousands of years of literature talk about the benefits of cultivating gratefulness as a virtue,” says University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons. In fact gratitude as both behavior and virtue is integral to health and well-being. A recent movement called “positive psychology,” has mental health professionals taking a closer look at how this behavior can benefit our health. And they’re reaping some promising results.
Just to give you a few of the highlights these researchers have found that it helps dealing with stress, it boosts the immune system, and it helps people face significant losses. Christopher Peterson, PhD, at the University of Michigan posted a survey, attributing a surge in gratitude among Americans post 9/11 that had a sense of increased belonging. These feelings offered more than community building. Gratitude in the aftermath of 9/11 helped buffer people against the negative effects of stress, making them less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, explains Emmons.
Here are just a few ideas for the week:
1) Keep some gratitude post-it-notes around your house to remind you.
2) Keep a journal of things that inspire gratitude in the face of loss or illness.
3) Create a list of benefits in your life so you don’t take them for granted.
4) Talk to yourself in more optimistic and appreciative ways.
5) Take a different look at a situation you face in which you have a more positive attitude.
6) Take a break, get some rest, change your routine so that you get a different perspective.
7) Post things that you are grateful for on one of the social media sites so you encourage your friends and are reminded of the benefits of gratefulness.
8) Share this post with three people. (I’m smiling now.)
Maybe this is just the thing to help you start your week off right. Mondays can be down days for lots of people who are heading back to work after a good weekend. Don’t do it. Think of the fact that you CAN go back to work, that you have the health that makes Monday the second day of the week and not the first. Think about how you can help shape someone else’s attitude – keep them positive and maybe healthier as a result.
“My (children), do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” Proverbs 3:1-2